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Live Blog - 20 April 2020
20 April 2020

Our live blog on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the world is on every day from 1200-1600 Central European Summer Time (equivalent to 1400-1800 in Tbilisi and Dubai).

This blog is compiled by our team of journalists and researchers based in The Hague in the Netherlands and in Tbilisi, Georgia, working with partners and associates in a number of different countries. You can also follow us on twitter @commonspaceEU. We are happy to hear from you wherever you are. Please send us your comments, stories and suggestions by email to editor@commonspace.eu

This live blog has been running daily since 19 March. You can read earlier blogs here

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Monday, 20 April 2020

1600 CEST (18.00 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now pausing this blog for today

We will be back tomorrow at 12 noon CEST (14.00 in Tbilisi and in Dubai)

Till then from our team in The hague and in Tbilisi, a good evening

Be Safe! Be Healthy! Be Happy!

 

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1555 CEST (1755 Tbilisi/Dubai)

And we want to end this blog today where we started four hours ago, with an update from Russia, where it seems, coronavirus has now reached the Russian Army

  Russia

The Russian military will quarantine everyone involved in rehearsals for Russia's postponed Victory Day Parade, the Defense Ministry said Monday following reports that some participants have tested positive for the coronavirus.

President Vladimir Putin postponed the landmark parade to mark the 75th anniversary of Soviet victory in World War II until later in 2020 as Russia struggles to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed Friday that dozens of cadets, some of whom were reportedly involved in parade rehearsals, tested positive for Covid-19 in Moscow.

"The military teams have been ordered to return to home bases in accordance with the decision to postpone the military parade on Red Square," Russia's state-run TASS news agency quoted the Defense Ministry as saying.

"Upon arrival, all military personnel who took part in rehearsals will be placed in two-week quarantine," it added.

The military said that all equipment that was used in the rehearsals will be disinfected, according to TASS.

 

 

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1545 CEST (1745 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Turkey

With nearly ninety thousand cases of covid 19 and two thousand deaths, Turkey is struggling to contain the spread of the disease, including by shutting down cities and by curfews. For nature however there is no curfew. In this picture from Anadolou Agency, a dolphin is seen swimming among sea gulls in the sea near Eminonou district of Istanbul last Saturday.

 

1530 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

It is time to catch up on developments around the MENA region with updates prepared by Noman Ahmed

 Iran

Iranian streets are bustling today with traffic and open shops amidst speculation about the progress of the health crisis. Luckily the number of daily new infections has been decreasing.

The government wants to stimulate its economy which has struggled in light of the economic sanctions. Taxi drivers are among the most impacted workers and also one of the groups most at risk. 

"We, the taxi drivers, are at the highest risk than anybody else because we are constantly in touch with people," cab driver Nemat Hassanzadeh said. "We have no choice but to work because we cannot afford to sleep at home and not to work with these high prices. ... I am a tenant and need the money to pay the monthly rent and also pay off my car loan."

Another personal car owner, who turned gypsy cab says he only picks passengers with masks and that he has to work to afford daily needs. 

  Libya

Libyans seem to be reluctant to accept the intensified lockdown measures to stall the infection. 

A 10-day curfew hours between 12 noon and 7 am is enacted in the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) held areas. 51 people have so far tested positive for #COVID19 with one death and 11 recoveries. 

"There is nearly nothing around us, without a car we can't do the shopping, especially to buy cooking gas, milk or water containers ... only the bakery is within 500 meters of us," said one resident who lives in the outskirts of Tripoli.

Shopkeepers have struggled to enforce social distancing requirements on his customers and crowds gather at mosques to collect water. The lockdown has since become a source of frustration. 

 Lebanon

The number of new cases in Lebanon has been steadily decreasing. The night curfew will start an hour later due to the fasting month. Health ministry teams, in collaboration with the Red Crescent workers continue to carry out random testing. 

"The results of these tests are expected to help verify the possibility of societal infections and unannounced cases, to determine the course of the pandemic in Lebanon, and decide the steps to be taken," Health Minister Hamad Hassan said.

Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Odeh, in an Easter sermon in Beirut, demanded that the government to "lift Lebanon out of its crisis without the citizens having to pay the price of the mistakes and quarrels of their rulers."

Odeh reminded the officials of the popular uprising six months ago "because they could no longer tolerate exploitation." He called on the government to "implement the real reforms that it had promised, which will satisfy the people, not the political class and (political) parties."

Lebanon has 677 cases, 21 deaths and 102 recoveries.

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1515 CEST (1715 (Tbilisi/Dubai)

Sleeping through the pandemic

Our wellness moment for today is about sleeping. Doctors throughout the world are reporting they are being contacted by people who are having trouble sleeping. The disruption to normal life, the stress of the pandemic and the financial consequences of the lockdown means many people simply cannot close eye to eye.

In today's feature on health and wellness William Murray that there are a number of things that people can be doing to help themselves to sleep better, and thus be in a better position to handle the stresses of the ongoing crisis. He says that experts believe that we should concentrate on: Keep a routine; put away your screens and have during the day some daylight exposure. Read the article here

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1450 CEST (1650 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Austria

Maximiliaan van Lange has a short update from Austria, where the government is considering starting the process of easing the lockdown. There are however issues related to the economy that remain to be sorted.

On Monday, Austria called on the European Union to suspend its rules on state aid so that the governments could help companies to survive the Covid-19 pandemic without Brussels' permission.

Austria opposes the idea of 'Eurobonds', but recently supported the rescue package for the most affected EU countries. In return, the country now wants to arrange a suspension of the rules on state aid that prevent EU countries from giving state aid to their national companies.

"I do not understand a situation where we support other countries with Austrian taxpayers' money, and in return, we are not allowed to support our own companies with our own taxpayers' money. That is not possible," says Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel.

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1420 CEST (1620 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Russia

The Russian Government has released some interesting statistics with regards to who has been infected by coronavirus in Russia

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said at a meeting on the sanitary and epidemiological situation in Russia chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that the average age of coronavirus-positive patients in Russia is 47.9 for women and 44.7 for men,   

Children under 18 years of age account for 7.6% of Russia's coronavirus cases, while people aged over 65 account for 15.5%, Tatiana Golikova informed.

"I would like to draw attention to the fact that, while the proportion of children under 18 years of age is 7.6%, and this corresponds to the general trend in the world, the proportion of sick citizens [aged] 65+ is 15.5%. This is lower than in other countries," she stated.

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1340 CEST (1540 Tbilisi/Dubai)

More than one hundred thousand Europeans have died of covid-19

More than one hundred thousand Europeans have died from coronavirus so far.

The largest numbers are in Italy, Spain and France, but there have also been high numbers in UK, Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Different Europoean countries are taking different approaches to dealing with the pandemic. Whilst some countries are working to return to some kind of normnality as soon as possible, others appear to find safety in isolation, as Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of our research team, reports:

  Czechia

In the Czech Republic, the Czech president, Milos Zeman, wants to keep land borders closed for at least another year, as part of the fight against Covid-19. Zeman advises residents to celebrate the upcoming summer holiday in their own country. Since mid-March - except in case of an emergency - only truck drivers or border workers are allowed in and out of the country. With 6,701 infections and 186 deaths, the country has remained relatively unscathed by the pandemic, and the president is keen to keep it that way.

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1310 CEST (1510 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We now have some updates from across the South Caucasus

  Georgia

The last data from Georgia shows thast there are now 399 resigstered cases of covid 19 in the country and foru people have died.

Today (the day after Orthodox Easter) is the day when Georgians normally flock in their thousands to cemetries all over the country to pay respects to their dead ancestors. This year all cemetries are closed, and the government is firmly trying to ensure that there is no violation of the prohibition of such visits.

  Armenia

In Armenia the number of coronavirus cases is now 1339. and there have been 22 deaths.

In the meantime, it was announced today that prime minister Nikol Pashinyan has appointed Lusine Kocharyan as new Secretary-General in the Ministry of Health of Armenia.

  Azerbaijan

The Board of Caucasian Muslims has issued a fatwa ahead of the holy month of Ramadan which will start later this week. The Fatwa also addresses the current coronavirus crisis. It says

"In these difficult circumstances of Ramadan this year, people have a special responsibility to protect their lives and the lives of those around them, which are a gift from God Almighty. It is a time when the irresponsibility and indifference of one person can cost the lives of thousands of innocent people. We must not forget that this is a great sin. According to the Shari'ah, things that can harm a person's health, weaken the body and make it vulnerable to disease should not be allowed. "

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1230 CEST (1430 Tbilisi/Dubai)

In the meantime our colleague Noman Ahmed from the commonspace.eu research team has been watching developments across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region

  Iran

Iran has extended the furloughs for prisoners for an extra month.  Iran seeks to curb the spread of the virus in prisons, the President said. Almost 100,000 prisoners have been released since February. 

Mosques and holy sites are closed until May 4, but reports said that some gatherings were held in secret. 

Schools and universities remain closed, but some small businesses were allowed to open gradually since the weekend. 


Tunisia

The Tunisian Prime Minister announced that the general confinement across the country will be extended until May 3. 

"The curfew will be carried out from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. to allow more flexibility for Tunisians during the holy month of Ramadan, the month of fasting in the Islamic calendar, which will start from April 24," he said. 

On the other hand, the Tunisian Health Minister says that the country has overcome the worst of the crisis. 

Total cases in Tunisia stand at 879 with 38 deaths and 43 recoveries. Only 129 of those infected are hospitalized.            

 Jordan

Jordan will lift lockdown measures in three southern governorates by allowing people's movements and opening business. Public gatherings such as wedding ceremonies will still be prohibited.

The three governorates of Karak, Tafileh and Maan have not recorded any cases of #COVID19 since the outbreak began. Citizens will be allowed to go out of their houses between 10:00 to 18:00, but the situation will be monitored for three days to see if safety measures will be adhered to. 

Residents of Aqaba out shopping after restrictions were lifted

 UAE

Dubai's authorities launched a food distribution campaign to support low income families. The fund will operate under the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, MBRGI, and the Social Solidarity Fund Against COVID-19. Donations can be made through the website, www.10millionmeals.ae, SMS, and bank transfers. 

The UAE has reported 6781 cases, 41 deaths and 1286 recoveries.

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1215 CEST (1415 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  We stay in Russia for the moment

The commonspace.eu team has been monitoring chatter on Russian social media groups where considerable concern is being expressed about how the situation is unfolding. There is also some dismay that President Putin appears to be distancing himself from the daily developments around the pandemic. In Moscow, the epicentre of the pandemic in Russia, it appears that the Mayor, Sergei Sobianin, is fronting the challenge, and the criticism. Moscow had reported 204 deaths among coronavirus patients as of Monday.

Indicative of some of the underlying problems is the fact that 500 medical students from Moscow's four medical schools have been roped in to help in the pandemic. This in itself is not unusual, and is happening in other countries such as Germany and Britain. But according to a recent report by the respected Russian english language newspaper Moscow Times, the Russian medical students are having to deal directly with medical emergencies

You can read the article here

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Good day and welcome to this live blog on commonspace.eu

It is Monday, 20 April 2020 - 12 noon  Central European Summer Time (CEST) equivalent to 14.00 hours in Tbilisi and Dubai.

 As coronavirus sweeps over the world,  Russia, and particularly the capital city Moscow, has started to feel the impact of the pandemic, and there are reports that the health services in the city are now under considerable strain.

In an Easter message over the weekend President Vladimir Putin has tried to reassure Russians that the government has the pandemic under control but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the situation in Moscow is quite serious. Compared to some other European countries the number of cases of covid 19 and of deaths, in Russia remains on the small side with 47,121 cases and 405 fatalities.  But the numbers appear to be increasing leading to the conclusion that worst is yet to come.

The Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, said on Monday that Russia had already conducted 2 million tests for coronavirus, more than 100,000 of these tests were conducted in the last twenty four hours.

Our cover picture this morning is from Moscow, showing members of the security forces wearing protective clothing patrolling the Russian capital. We will be looking at developments in Russia over the next four hours, and of course also following other news and stories from the South Caucasus, Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East.

 

 

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